Beam Telepresence robot assists NASA in ventilator development


Earlier this month the food and drug administration approved a high pressure ventilator prototype designed by NASA with the assistance of experts in a multitude of capabilities separated by mandatory distancing.

NASA is no stranger to crossing long distances to succeed in a mission although the recent Covid 19 developments has caused NASA a new unique challenge of creating a device outside of their previous expertise while maintaining social distancing.

To bridge the knowledge and distance gap NASA turned to a former client of Speck Design, Suitable Technologies, the maker of Beam, “to create a communication pathway between engineers, designers and visualization specialists with doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and intensivists (board-certified physicians providing special care for critically ill patients).”

Suitable Technologies’ Beam telepresence robot gave NASA the unique ability to instantly connect with outside experts. This allowed for instant feedback and assistance thus expediting a process that would otherwise be bogged down by communication lapses. The end result was the creation of VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally.

The approval comes after VITAL passed a critical test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

"Fighting the virus and treating patients during this unprecedented global pandemic requires innovative approaches and action. It also takes an all-hands-on-deck approach, as demonstrated by the NASA engineers who used their expertise in spacecraft to design a ventilator tailored for very ill coronavirus patients. This example shows what we can do when everyone works together to fight Covid-19," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

Speck Design, a San Jose based design consultancy worked with Suitable Technologies CEO Scott Hasaan and his team to design the first Beam Telepresence in 2012, after working with Scott at Willow Garage. The Beam technology is now owned by Blue Ocean Robotics.

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